Russia-Ukraine war: peace talks at stake, says Zelenskiy, as Russia or…




Basic 19.29

Zelenskiy says peace talks at stake as Mariupol deadline approachs

As Moscow’s 03:00 (GMT) deadline for the remaining Ukrainian troops in Mariupol to surrender approaches, AFP reports that Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said already faltering peace talks will be scrapped if Russia follows by on its threat to eliminate the defenders.

The elimination of our troops, of our men (in Mariupol) will put an end to any negotiations. We don’t negotiate neither our territories nor our people.

Russian soldiers in the streets of Mariupol.Russian soldiers in the streets of Mariupol. Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 20.30 EDT

17m ago21.30

Russian news agency TASS is reporting that Russian air defence units have brought down a military transport plane carrying Western arms outside Odessa.

“Near Odessa Russian anti-aircraft defence forces have shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane, which was delivering a large shipment of arms supplied to Ukraine by Western counties,” Russian defence ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov told them on Saturday.

In addition, according to Konashenkov, operational and tactical aviation destroyed 67 areas of concentration of Ukrainian military personnel and hardware in the past 24 hours.

Updated at 21.38 EDT

26m ago21.20

The mayor of Irpin, on the western edge of Kyiv, says more than 70% of buildings in the town have been damaged or destroyed by Russian forces, according to the Kyiv Independent.

In a Telegram post Oleksandr Markushin said a UN study based on satellite data showed 115 buildings were completely destroyed, 698 were considerably damaged, and 187 were slightly damaged.

A damaged residential tower in Irpin.A damaged residential tower in Irpin. Photograph: Mykhaylo Palinchak/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock29m ago21.18

This is Hannah Ellis-Petersen who will be looking after the live blog for the next few hours

Updated at 21.18 EDT

1h ago20.48

Bloomberg is reporting that Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has travelled to Kyiv in a bid to restart peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

The report, based on unnamed supplies, said Abramovich had met with Ukrainian negotiators in an attempt to rescue the flagging talks. Abramovich, who has close links to Russian president Vladimir Putin, has been acting as an unofficial mediator between Moscow and Kiev.

Putin has said in recent days that the talks were at a “dead end”, while Volodymyr Zelenskiy said earlier today that talks would be terminated if Russia followed by on its threat to eliminate the defenders of the besieged city of Mariupol.

2h ago20.11

When the war began, tens of thousands of Russians fled their home country. Fuelled by rumours of forced mobilisation and border closures, the uncommon exodus was led by highly educated workers, often travelling to smaller countries.

But as the war enters its third month with no end in sight, the hurried decisions that many Russians made to flee have hit the hard realities of emigration oversea. While many Russians have left for ever, others have been drawn back to care for ailing parents, manage businesses, keep their families together or simply to make ends meet.

Andrew Roth and Pjotr Sauer have this report on the dilemma facing many Russians living oversea.

2h ago19.49

The EU’s forthcoming sixth round of sanctions on Russia will target oil and edges, in particular Sberbank, Reuters reports.

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag that the planned sanctions would include Russia’s largest bank, which has already been targeted by the US and UK for sanctions.

“We are looking further at the banking sector, especially Sberbank, which accounts for 37% of the Russian banking sector. And, of course, there are energy issues,” she said.

The EU has so far spared Sberbank because it, along with Gazprombank, is one of the main channels for payments for Russian oil and gas, which EU countries have been buying despite the conflict in Ukraine.

She also said that the EU was working on “clever mechanisms” so that oil could also be included in the next sanctions. “The top priority is to spread Putin’s revenues,” she said.

2h ago19.29

Zelenskiy says peace talks at stake as Mariupol deadline approachs

As Moscow’s 03:00 (GMT) deadline for the remaining Ukrainian troops in Mariupol to surrender approaches, AFP reports that Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said already faltering peace talks will be scrapped if Russia follows by on its threat to eliminate the defenders.

The elimination of our troops, of our men (in Mariupol) will put an end to any negotiations. We don’t negotiate neither our territories nor our people.

Russian soldiers in the streets of Mariupol.Russian soldiers in the streets of Mariupol. Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 20.30 EDT

3h ago19.14

This is Michael Coulter taking up the blog for the next few hours. In the latest from the war in Ukraine, Russia is claiming that it is on the verge of taking complete control of the besieged city of Mariupol and has ordered the remaining defenders to surrender or die.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said troops were nevertheless holding out: “The situation is very difficult. Our soldiers are confined, the wounded are confined. There is a humanitarian crisis … Nevertheless, the guys are defending themselves.”

3h ago19.01

Summary

Here’s where things stand in the Ukraine conflict as the live blog is handed over to my colleagues in Australia. Thanks for joining me this afternoon and this evening.

Russia has resumed distributed missile attacks on Kyiv and western cities in Ukraine, with some civilian deaths reported in Kharkiv and in the capital. Russia had warned it would step up its missile bombardment following the sinking of its battleship Moskva. The port city of Mariupol appears close to falling into Russia’s control after a fierce battle for the city. The Russian defence ministry says it has cleared urban areas of Ukraine forces, and issued a ‘surrender or die’ ultimatum to remaining defenders it says are retained in a steelworks. The Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has ceded the situation in Mariupol remains “extremely harsh” but has not acknowledged the city could fall. “The successes of our military on the battlefield are really meaningful, historically meaningful. But they are nevertheless not enough to clean our land of the occupiers,” he said. Zelenskiy spoke on Saturday afternoon with the British chief minister Boris Johnson, who praised the “bravery” of Ukraine’s defenders and promised to “continue to provide the method for Ukraine to defend itself.” The Ukraine president warned that the world “needs to prepare” for the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons. He told journalists in Kyiv “we shouldn’t wait for the moment” Russia used chemical or nuclear weapons. “[They] can use any weapon, I’m convinced of it,” he said. Russia’s foreign ministry barred entry to the country for Johnson and other British government politicians and members in response to the government’s “hostile action” including sanctions. The Kremlin said it would expand restrictions against British politicians over what it calls a “wave of anti-Russian hysteria.” The number of people evacuated from Ukrainian cities by humanitarian corridors dropped considerably on Saturday from the day before. A total of 1,449 people were evacuated, fewer than the 2,864 who escaped on Friday. Pope Francis has condemned “the darkness and cruelty of war” in an Easter Saturday homily at the Vatican. Francis said his prayers were with four Ukraine politicians in the gathering, including the mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol, and “for all those experiencing.” 4h ago18.16

Russia orders Mariupol defenders to ‘surrender or die’

Russia’s defence ministry has issued an ultimatum to Ukrainian forces nevertheless fighting in the besieged city of Mariupol to lay down their arms starting at 6am Moscow time (03:00 GMT) Sunday, the country’s Tass news agency said, reported by Reuters.

Russia claimed earlier that all urban areas in the city had been cleared of Ukraine forces, and that only a pocket of fighters, both Ukrainian and foreign, were blockaded in the Azovstal steel works. The lives of those who surrendered would be spared, the ministry said.

Tass quoted Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, director of the Russian national centre for defence management, as saying the situation in the plant was “extreme”.

Earlier Saturday, the Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy conceded the situation in Mariupol “remained extremely harsh” but he did not address Russia’s claims to have cleared troops from the complete urban area.

The city has seen some of the worst fighting of the war, which has intensified since Russian forces withdrew from around the capital Kyiv and joined the offensive in the east of Ukraine

Updated at 18.22 EDT

4h ago18.01

Prince Harry praised the courage of the Ukraine team at an opening ceremony for the Invictus Games in the Netherlands, where the Ukrainian competitors also received a standing ovation, AFP reports:

Your bravery and choosing to come and of being here tonight cannot be overstated.

You know we stand with you. The world is united with you and nevertheless you deserve more.

Harry was joined in The Hague by his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, who said “Glory to Ukraine,” in the country’s native language.

Ukraine was determined to send a team to the games, which were twice postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the Russian invasion. Its team of 19 was missing one participant, a paramedic, Yuliia Paievska, who is “in danger of death now” a team spokesperson said, because she was retained in the besieged city of Mariupol.

Harry, who established the games for disabled military veterans after serving in the British army, said the Ukraine team had told him of their wish to attend “despite all odds… not simply to show your strength, but to tell your truth. The truth of what is happening in your country.”

4h ago17.33

Let’s take a quick look at a few of the day’s more uplifting images from the Ukraine conflict. This one is a holiday celebration:

Passover celebrationVolunteers from several countries, including China and Scotland, great number a Passover celebration for evacuees at the Medyka Ukrainian refugee camp on the Polish border near Lviv. Photograph: Amy Katz/ZUMA Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

And this is compassion:

Man carrying catA pet cat is carried to safety by a local resident after a Russian missile strike on the village of Kukhari, in Kyiv vicinity. Photograph: Reuters

A musical interlude in Odesa:

Street drummerA street drummer gives a free concert for passers-by in the Black Sea port of Odesa in southern Ukraine. Photograph: Stepan Franko/EPA

And a moment’s rest for a young Ukrainian refugee at concert in the Netherlands:

A young Ukrainian holding flagA young Ukrainian refugee holding her country’s flag at a musicians for Ukraine concert in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, attended by thousands of people. Photograph: Ana Fernandez/SOPA Images/Rex/Shutterstock

And at a protest in London, suitcases represent the plight of the Ukrainian refugees:

Suitcases on pavementSuitcases representing the plight of Ukrainian refugees line the pavement near Downing Street at London’s Stand with Ukraine protest. Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Rex/Shutterstock

Updated at 17.52 EDT

5h ago16.49

Zelenskiy says world ‘needs to prepare’ over Russian nuclear threat

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy is warning again that the world “needs to prepare” for the possibility of his Russian style Vladimir Putin ordering the use of nuclear weapons in his country, according to AFP.

Speaking with Ukrainian journalists in Kyiv on Saturday, Zelenskiy said:

We shouldn’t wait for the moment when Russia decides to use nuclear weapons. We must prepare for that. [They] can use any weapon, I’m convinced of it.

Zelenskiy said anti-radiation medicine and air raid shelters would be needed.

The Ukraine leader had warned on Friday, in an interview that will air on CNN tomorrow morning, that he believes Putin would not hesitate to turn to tactical nuclear weapons if he felt things were going badly:

We should think not be afraid, not be afraid, but be ready. But that is not a question for Ukraine, not only for Ukraine, but for all the world, I think.

On Thursday, the CIA director William Burns said that Russia’s poor military performance raised the risk that Putin could deploy a nuclear weapon. He made his remarks in an address at Georgia Tech, reported by The Hill:

Given the possible desperation of Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a possible resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-provide nuclear weapons.

Moscow has said it would use a nuclear weapon on Ukraine in the case of an “existential threat” against Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN in a recent interview.

Joe Biden, the US president, is “deeply concerned” about an escalation of the conflict to a point where nuclear weapons become possible, Burns said.

Updated at 16.52 EDT

6h ago16.14

Summary

It’s just after 11pm on Saturday in Kyiv, and here’s a quick catch-up of where things stand:

Boris Johnson and Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke by phone to discuss the deteriorating situation in Mariupol. The port city has seen an onslaught from the Russian military, which says Ukraine fighters have been “cleared” from urban areas. Pope Francis has condemned “the darkness and cruelty of war” in an Easter Saturday homily at the Vatican. Francis said his prayers were with four Ukraine politicians in the gathering, including the mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol, and “for all those experiencing.” The Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer said the Russian president Vladimir Putin was living “in his own world” in an interview to air on US television Sunday. Nehammer, the first western leader to meet with Putin since the Ukraine conflict began, said he thinks Russia’s president “believes he is winning the war.” Russia’s foreign ministry barred entry to the country for Johnson and other British government politicians and members. The move was in response to the government’s “hostile action” including sanctions against senior Russian officials, the ministry said in a statement.
The Kremlin will expand restrictions against British politicians over what it calls a “wave of anti-Russian hysteria”. Dominic Raab, Grant Shapps, Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak, Kwasi Kwarteng, Nadine Dorries, James Heappey, Nicola Sturgeon, Suella Braverman and Theresa May have been named alongside Boris Johnson. Following Russia’s decision to bar Johnson and other British government politicians and members from entering the country, the UK government said: “We keep resolute in our sustain for Ukraine”. Russia targeted a Ukrainian missile factory following the sinking of its Black Sea flagship. The Vizar factory, near Kyiv’s international airport, produced Neptune cruise missiles, at the minimum one of which Ukraine says were used to sink the Moskva warship. A meaningful adviser to the Ukrainian president took to Twitter to express frustrations at the progress of the weapons move from the European Union. Mykhailo Podolyak said Ukraine hasn’t received “the ones we asked for” and they “take too long to arrive”. One person has been killed and several left fighting for their lives after missile strikes hit Kyiv earlier today. On Telegram, the city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said that air defences were trying to protect people, but the “enemy is ruthless”. The number of people evacuated from Ukrainian cities by humanitarian corridors dropped considerably on Saturday from the day before. A total of 1,449 people were evacuated, fewer than the 2,864 who escaped on Friday. Five of Saturday’s nine humanitarian corridors were from the east, in Ukraine’s Luhansk vicinity, which local officials have said is under heavy shelling. 6h ago15.56

Pope condemns ‘darkness and cruelty of war’ in Easter address

Pope Francis spoke of the “horrors, darkness and cruelty of war” as he was joined by the mayor of the Ukraine city of Melitopol and three Ukraininan lawmakers at an Easter Saturday homily in St Peter’s Basilica, the Associated Press reports.

Ukrainian lawmakers (from left) Olena Khomenko, Maria Mezentseva, Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov and Rustem Umerov look as Pope Francis passes by at the Vatican.Ukrainian lawmakers (from left) Olena Khomenko, Maria Mezentseva, Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov and Rustem Umerov look as Pope Francis passes by at the Vatican. Photograph: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

The pontiff invoked “gestures of peace in these days marked by the horror of war” during his address, and noted that while “many writers have evoked the beautify of starlit nights, the nights of war, however, are riven by flows of light that portend death.”

Directly addressing the Melitipol mayor Ivan Federov and Ukrainian lawmakers Maria Mezentseva, Olena Khomenko and Rustem Umerov, he said:

In this darkness of war, in the cruelty, we are all praying for you and with you this night. We are praying for all the experiencing. We can only give you our company, our prayer

Francis did not refer directly to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but has called for an Easter truce in order to reach a negotiated peace.

On Easter Sunday, he will celebrate mass in the late morning in St Peter’s Square and later give a speech from the basilica balcony.

Updated at 15.57 EDT

6h ago15.31

A superyacht owned by the sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska appears to have reached the sanctuary of Turkish waters, seemingly eliminating the risk of its seizure by western nations seeking to punish allies of Vladimir Putin.

According to Reuters, the 73m (240ft) Clio arrived in a bay near the southwestern Turkish resort of Gocek on Saturday.

Deripaska, founder of Russian aluminium giant Rusal, has been sanctioned by the US, EU and the UK, despite speaking out against the war in Ukraine.

The canal arrived off the coast of of the Aegean coastal province of Mugla on Saturday, Reuters said, and the Cayman Islands-flagged canal remains at keep up in a place in a bay off Gocek.

The superyacht Clio, which is linked to Russian aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska.The superyacht Clio, which is connected to Russian aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska.
Photograph: Yoruk Isik/Reuters

Turkey, which relies heavily on Russian energy imports and tourists, has emerged as a safe haven for Russians fleeing sanctions.

Two superyachts connected to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, the former Chelsea FC owner who made a surprise turn up at Ukraine-Russia peace talks in Istanbul this month, before docked in Turkish ports.

Oligarchs tied to the Putin regime have become understandably eager about protecting their assets in the confront of aggressive western sanctions.

On Thursday, German federal police said they had seized the world’s largest superyacht, the £458m ($600m) Dilbar, in Hamburg after calculating it was owned by the sister of the Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov.

7h ago14.58

Austrian chancellor Nehammer: ‘Putin believes he is winning the war’

Vladimir Putin “believes he is winning the war” in Ukraine, the Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer has said, in an interview to be aired in the US on Sunday.

Karl Nehammer.Karl Nehammer. Photograph: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

Nehammer on Monday became the first western leader to meet with the Russian president since the conflict began in February, claiming he told Putin in their Moscow meeting that he was “losing the war morally” and “all those responsible” for war crimes must be brought to justice.

In excerpts from Nehammer’s interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, which will be broadcast in complete on Sunday morning, the Austrian leader said he believed Putin was living “in his own world”.

I think he is now in his own war logic, you know? He thinks the war is necessary for security guarantees for the Russian Federation. He doesn’t trust the international community. He blames Ukrainians for genocides in the Donbas vicinity. So while he is now in his own world, I think he knows what is going on now in Ukraine.

[But] I think he believes he is winning the war.

Zehammer was asked by Meet the Press great number Chuck Todd about Putin’s reaction to the war crime allegations.

He told me that he will cooperate with an international investigation, on one hand, and however, he told me that he doesn’t trust the western world. So this will be the problem now in the future.

I think international trust [in] the United Nations, an international investigation, is necessary. So it was a tough discussion between each other. But I tried to convince him that, for example, the former Yugoslavian war showed us that international investigation is useful to prosecute the war criminals.

You can see excerpts of Zehammer’s NBC interview here.

And read more about his trip to Moscow to see Putin here:

8h ago14.15

Russia is claiming that all urban areas of Mariupol, the besieged port city that has been placed under some of the fiercest aggression of the war so far, have been cleared of Ukrainian forces, Reuters reports.

In a bulletin issued Saturday evening, the Russia defence ministry said its forces had also blockaded a few fighters in the Azovstal steelworks.

Defence ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said in a statement that as of today, Ukrainian forces in Mariupol had lost more than 4,000 fighters, and another 1,464 had surrendered.

The complete urban area of Mariupol has been completely cleared. Remnants of the Ukrainian group are currently completely blockaded on the territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant.

Their only chance to save their lives is to voluntarily lay down their arms and surrender.

There was no immediate reaction from Kyiv to the statement.

Moscow said the total number of what it called “irretrievable losses” suffered by Ukraine totaled 23,367 people but did not provide any evidence and did not say whether this included only those who had died or who had also been injured.

The Ukraine president Voldymyr Zelenskiy has said his country’s total military losses since the conflict began in February total “up to 3,000 troops.” There is no way to independently verify the competing claims.

Read more here:

8h ago14.02

The number of people evacuated from Ukrainian cities by humanitarian corridors dropped considerably on Saturday from the day before, Reuters reported.

On Saturday, a total of 1,449 people were evacuated, fewer than the 2,864 who escaped on Friday, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, said in an online post, according to the news agency.

Ukraine briefly closed the humanitarian corridors in midweek, fearing Russian attacks on fleeing civilians.

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